Legislative Update for Week Ending October 25, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending October 25, 2013

This week, Members of Congress focused on the rocky implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) health insurance marketplace. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw several key bills gain support.

Technical Glitches Affect ACA Implementation

This week, lawmakers turned their attention toward the technical issues that have been plaguing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act for the past four weeks. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website have prevented millions of Americans – including seniors under the age of sixty-five who are not yet eligible for Medicare – from purchasing health insurance coverage through the new marketplace. Those who fail to sign up before the enrollment deadline will be faced with a tax penalty of either $95 or 1 percent of annual income – whichever is higher.

Due to the ongoing technical problems, a number of lawmakers have called on President Obama this week to extend the open enrollment period past the March 31st deadline. In a letter to the White House, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) stated: “Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options, and enroll.” Other lawmakers spoke about potential legislative solutions. Senator Joe Manchin (WV) said he plans to introduce a bill that would delay the tax penalty until 2015, and Senator Marco Rubio (FL) said he will introduce legislation to delay the requirement for six months once the website is declared fully functional.

TSCL agrees that extending the open enrollment period past the March 31st deadline would be a fair solution to this problem. Individuals should not be penalized financially if they are unable to enroll on time due to the failure of the HealthCare.gov website. In the coming weeks, we will continue to monitor the implementation of the health insurance marketplace, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

Four Bills Gain Critical Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. David Loebsack (IA-2) – signed on to the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 574), bringing the total up to thirty-nine. If signed into law, H.R. 574 would repeal and replace the sustainable growth rate (SGR), which is the flawed formula that is currently used to determine reimbursements for physicians who treat Medicare patients. TSCL firmly believes that adopting H.R. 574 would bring increased stability to the Medicare program for both physicians and beneficiaries.

In addition, one new cosponsor – Rep. Ami Bera (CA-7) – signed on to the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures (PRIME) Act (H.R. 2305), bringing the total up to forty-seven. If signed into law, the PRIME Act would take a number of steps to comprehensively prevent fraud, waste, and abuse within the two programs – a problem that TSCL believes must be addressed in order to ensure that scarce program dollars are being spent properly.

One new cosponsor – Rep. Andre Carson (IN-7) – also signed on to the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act (H.R. 3090) this week, bringing the total up to forty-six. If signed into law, the bill would expand the federal definition of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It would also incorporate elder abuse prevention trainings, screenings, and reporting protocols into all senior service access points that receive federal funding under the bill. H.R. 3090 would take an important step in preventing elder abuse – a problem that affects an estimated 14.1 percent of all non-institutionalized older adults each year.

Finally, one new cosponsor – Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795), bringing the total up to ninety-three. If signed into law, H.R. 1795 would repeal two provisions of the Social Security Act that unfairly reduce the earned benefits of millions of state and local government employees each year. TSCL believes that the two provisions – the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset – must be repealed before the end of this year so that dedicated public servants receive the retirement security they have earned.

TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 574, H.R. 2305, H.R. 3090, and H.R. 1795, and we were pleased to see support grow for each of them this week.